Soccer! Football! Whatever it’s called!

Living in England has converted me. That’s right, I’ve become a footie fan.

It’s a surprise to me. As a retired roller derby athlete and a lifelong ice hockey fan, I have always thought of soccer as a slow sport for the unfortunate people who can’t skate. Oh, I recognized the athleticism of jogging around after a ball for 90 minutes, but I just thought it wasn’t any fun to watch. All that diving to the ground and clutching at ankles. Give me Bobby Baun scoring a game winning goal on a fractured femur – as a Canadian kid I heard the legends of the hockey toughs, saw the sutures stitched on the bench. So naturally I held soccer in a not-always-quiet contempt.

I changed my mind when I worked with some soccer athletes. Dedicated, passionate, skillful and athletic, they had way more fortitude than I would have previously imagined. Still not the sport for me, but now I gave it respect.

Since moving to the UK, I have been adopted into a Manchester United household (this means that I am forbidden from saying anything remotely positive about Liverpool. At all. In any capacity. Ever.). I watched a couple games, and wasn’t that interested in their dull defensive strategy. Boring to watch. Especially when it doesn’t work, which is most of the time.

But then I started watching Leicester, who play an entirely different ball game. They’re the type of team that bring so much get-up-and-go to the field that they make other teams step up in kind. They’re fast and aggressive. It’s exciting. Really, really exciting.

Who knew?

I’m definitely a bandwagon jumper here, and I’ll admit that freely. So while I’m at it, here’s another bandwagon I’ve hopped on.

The football club to me – so local they play just a few blocks away – is Grimsby Town, nicknamed the Mariners. The team was founded in 1878. For context, the phonograph was patented the same year.

I haven’t been to a match, but I watch the crowd bedecked in black and white stripes streaming into and out of the arena whenever there’s a home game. There is a good deal of visible team support, which is really cool in an area of England where people grumble that there’s nothing to do except drink. The Mariners fans represent with a particularly Grimsby twist: chanting “fish” while waving inflatable haddock. I love England. Tis a silly place.
Last weekend the whole family gathered around the tv to see whether the team would be promoted to Football League after a 6-year absence. They won, and it’s a big deal, not in the least because it means they’ll be included in the next FIFA video game, because it means more money and prestige for the club, which in turn should attract more fans to watch games, eat at local restaurants and drink at local pubs. Good for business.
But more meaningful still is what it means to the people who live here. I sat at my window a few days ago and watched a gaggle of youngsters in their jerseys running up and down the street waiting to see the Mariners come past with their trophy. This is the difference between their hometown being the butt of a joke in the movies and having something to cheer for. It’s about community, and as someone who lives here, it brings a huge smile to my face.
IMG_20160517_163955315.jpg
The Mighty Mariners right outside my window.
I’m looking forward to getting to a match in the future. If only to shout FISH! FISH! FISH! while waving my haddock.*
*No, that’s not a euphemism**
**Or is it??
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4 thoughts on “Soccer! Football! Whatever it’s called!

  1. I only jumped on the Grimsby Town bandwagon a year ago and I’m absolutely rubbish when it comes remembering football related facts and figures, so the only comment I can really make is: Dah Dah Dah Dah… FISH!

    Like

    1. I’m definitely a casual fan – the facts and figures portion of my brain is still dedicated to ice hockey! But I’m looking forward to attending a game or two next season!

      Liked by 1 person

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